Diachronic Studies On Genre Evolution English Language Essay


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Although reviews have been paid little attention in scholarly research, they have, at times, been controversial, igniting interesting reactions and responses. Fred Reynolds, JAC book review editor from 1990-1994, resigned this position for several reasons which he editorialized in the Winter 1994 edition, including some dealing directly with the nature of reviews. Reynolds argued that no one person with his or her own particular biases or preferences should ―be allowed to do it-for too long, "the ―it" referring to being the editor of reviews. Reynolds asserted that too many excellent books are published with too little space allotted to reviews of the books in journals and that the ―publish-or-perish pressuresâ€- that create both an "administrative double-standard" of get reviewed but don't review and a "disciplinary double standard" of graduate students seeking publication through writing reviews, yet the students' professors wanting real scholars to review their own books. In addition, he claimed that inappropriate forces determine what books are reviewed such as a "mere textbook" versus a "real book", books that have been reviewed elsewhere or that have received awards, or a book that was "published by a cooperative publisher". Reynolds' resignation stance contributes to the idea of the importance and significance attached to reviews within scholarly journals.

Swales (1990) includes reviews as involving "the writer in serious evaluations, which are often replete with dedicated displays of scholarship and expertise, presumably in order to give the texts the required gravitas in the eyes of their institutional readership and to maintain the elevated status of their authors" Arguing from his empirical research, Ken Hyland (2004) also sees reviews as reflective of the development of the trends and trajectories in disciplines, in general. Hyland's Disciplinary Discourses argues that reviews "continue to play a significant role in the scholarship of the soft disciplines".

Thus, while reviews have received some attention in Becher, Goggin, Hyland, and others, there has been no full-fledged study of the genre of reviews in Applied linguistics journal diachronically. Therefore, the review, as part of the academic journal, is an essential genre in not only defining and legitimizing the discipline, but also in legitimizing participation in the professional culture of the discipline. Reviews deserve further study and in particular, reviews of Applied linguistics journal deserves further exploration as it is one of the well-known journals in the field of applied linguistics.

On the other hand, as Valor (2000) believes, in the book review, the writer tries to evaluate the work of a researcher according to different criteria such as adequate treatment of the subject, usefulness for the prospective reader and possible future applications (p.146). Owing to the fact that this task often needs a criticism-a negatively affective speech act which also constitutes a potentially face-threatening act (FTA)-mitigation strategies become necessary in order to have a negative effect on the reviewee and make the criticism more acceptable. Therefore, along with criticism, an attempt will be made to maintain social harmony and solidarity with the reviewee. This can be acquired by making use of positive politeness strategies which redress the FTAs.

By considering the above ideas, the study of the book review from a pragmatic perspective has attracted little attention in recent years in comparison with other academic genres such as the research article and the abstract. However, this genre constitutes a rich and interesting field for the study of politeness phenomena in academic discourse, as the present paper attempts to demonstrate.

The theoretical framework of the study reported here includes Brown and Levinson's politeness theory on book review texts. One of the most important concepts in Brown and Levinson's (1978, 1987) model is the concept of face, which is defined as a person's public self-image, "something that is emotionally invested, and that can be lost, maintained, or enhanced, and must be constantly attended to in interaction" (Brown and Levinson, 1987, p.66). These authors argue that "certain kinds of acts intrinsically threaten face, namely those acts that by their nature run contrary to the face wants of the addressee and/or of the speaker" (Brown and Levinson, 1987, p.70), and distinguish two types of face-threatening acts: those that threaten negative face, that is, the hearer's desire not to be impeded upon and to have freedom of action, and those which threaten positive face, that is, the hearer's desire to be liked and approved of.

Drawing on these studies, the purpose of this paper is to identify and analyze the positive and negative strategies used in the book review in order to maintain a harmonious relationship with the reviewer.

2. Review of literature

2.1. Genre Theory

We are not sure whether we consider the concept of genre can be regarded as a theory or not. However, it is undeniable that many scholars in the field of language and communication have given the theoretical stance to genre research (Devitt 2004, Bhatia 2004 & 1993, Dudley-Evans & St. John, 1998). Rutherford (2005) believes that the notion of genre is classical in origin and was first developed within the humanities as a tool of literary criticism. Genre has now been embraced by linguists and social theorists of communication'(p.352). Swales (1990) gives a definition of genre as follows:

A genre comprises a class of communicative events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognized by the expert members of the parent discourse community and thereby constitute the rationale for the genre. This rationale shapes the schematic structure of the discourse and influences and constrains choice of content and style. (Swales, 1990, p.58)

According to Swales (1990), genre analysis can be regarded as a linguistic approach that makes use of the notion of schematic structure in mapping the macro-structure of discourse. This kind of analysis seeks to recognize a "move". Move is defined as 'a unit that incorporates both purposes and content within a unit that the writer intentionally communicates to the readers' (Dudley-Evans & St. John 1998, p.89).

2.2. Genre and Discourse Community

According to Martin (1985), one can define genres as realisations of social actions, in other words, "how things get done, when language is used to accomplish them" (p.250). Adding to this definition, genres can be described as referring to a conventional category of discourse based on large scale typification of rhetorical action. An action acquires meaning from the situation and from the social context in which that situation arose. Swales has defined genre and the concept of discourse community as follows:

A genre comprises a class of communicative events, the members of which share some set of communicative purposes. These purposes are recognized by the expert members of the parent discourse community, and thereby constitute the rationale for the genre. The rationale shapes the schematic structure of the discourse and influences and constrains choice of content and style (1990, p.58)

Genre analysis is then the study of how language is used within a particular social setting. Examples of genres in academic written English are research articles or papers, abstracts, theses and dissertations. It is the discourse community that determines the characteristics of a certain genre and establishes standardized criteria or schematic structures.

Clearly, there is a close connection between the two terms: genre and discourse community. To illustrate this link, Swales (1990, p.9) explains that discourse communities are sociorhetorical networks that are created in order to achieve common objectives. The members of this community are familiarized with the particular genres that are used in order to achieve the mentioned aims. Therefore, genres belong to discourse communities and not to individuals or other kinds of groupings or to wider speech communities.

Genre analysis has devoted much attention to book review, which should be considered a kind of genre. In fact, they consist of a communication act in which a researcher in the same field tries to criticize the book which has been written by another researcher. This purpose leads these experts, i.e. the discourse community, to determine the characteristics of that genre in the sense that they establish standardized criteria or schematic structures. They use a specific kind of language, style, etc. within this particular setting.

García (1989) contends that effective or good writing may be different from one discourse community to another. Therefore, it is essential to know the scientific, linguistic and stylistic criteria of the community to be able to create a good or effective style (p.40). In summary, it is recommended that the student should learn the genre and conventions that is unique for the community they want to belong to in order to use this special style.

2.3. Diachronic studies on genre evolution

Historical genre analysis is relatively a new area of study which investigates the influence of the discourse community on the evolution and changes in structure of a specified type of genre. Diachronic studies explore the close interrelatedness of language and social activities and provide us with a strong perspective on the developing scientific forms. Bazerman's (1988) work has opened a new path before eyes of researchers to pay closer attention to the concept of genre evolution and to investigate how "genre tree" grows and how it evolves to be like what it is now.

Salager-Meyer (1999) examined the diachronic evolution of referential behavior in 162 medical English articles which were published in 34 different British and American medical journals between 1810 and 1995. Reference patterns were classified according to the general references, specific references, verbatim quotes, self-references, footnotes, and end-lists typology. Some referential patterns were clearly typical of 19th century medical discourse (verbatim quotes, general and specific references); others typified early 20th century articles (footnotes), and others were truly characteristic of late 20th century medical papers (end-lists). Self-references were found to be atypical. The results also showed a strong influence of social, cultural, economical, and historical factors on the way that medical sciences were conceived and reported. On the basis of the study, Salager-Meyer concluded that the diachronic evolution observed in the use and frequency of reference patterns reflected the conceptual shift from a non-professionalized, privately and individually-based medicine to a professionalized and specialized medicine, a technology-oriented medical research and a highly structured scientific community.

Gross, Harmon, and Reidy (2002) published a rigorous examination of the changes of the linguistic and rhetorical features of scientific writing by comparing biological evolution and the changing textual activity of the scientific articles over 300 year period from1665 to 1995. To explain changes, they used a version of selection theory as elaborated especially by philosophers such as Hull (1988); Griesemer and Wimsatt (1989).They argued that changes in science resulted from various pressures in the discursive environment producing the selection of changes from the lexico-grammatical level to the macro-structural level.

As far as the diachronic study of review books is concerned, Diani and Bondi (as in Hyland and Diani,2009) in analyzing the language features (reporting verbs and lexical keywords) of what they term the book review article, assert that reviewers use the opportunity of the review genre to build their own arguments, share their own views, and construct their own theories. The reviewer is clearly interested in giving voice to his or her own position in the field (p.193).

Valensky (2010), in his dissertation, studied how reviews reflect the disciplinary trajectory of composition studies diachronically. This historical and genre analysis study confirms the working hypothesis that reviews reflect the historical, textual, and professional development of composition's struggle for disciplinary legitimacy. He also argued that reviews in composition studies, as a genre, have shifted over the course of the historical trajectory of composition as it moved from a service course, which is reflected in the short reviews; to a field of study.

2.4. Brown and Levinson's theory of politeness

Brown and Levinson (1978) distinguish two aspects of politeness: negative and positive face. Their notion of negative face corresponds to Lakoff's defensiveness function, and to her distance strategy: every person's want to be free from imposition and distraction and to have her/his personal prerogatives and territory respected. This is another name for the principle, 'Don't impose'. The notion of positive face corresponds to camaraderie and to the rapport function. It is every person's want (the authors' carefully chosen word) that his or her wants be desirable to, at least some, others. Very exactly expressed, what each person wants is that others want for him what he wants for himself; for example: life, health, honor, a positive self-image.

Leech (1983, p.83) has a different look at what 'positive' and 'negative' politeness mean. He views negative and positive politeness as two ends on a continuum of absolute politeness. On one end there are inherently impolite illocutions (eg. orders), and on the other end there are inherently polite illocutions (eg. offers) . Negative politeness therefore aims at minimizing the impoliteness of impolite illocutions, and positive politeness aims at maximizing the politeness of polite illocutions.

In Brown and Levinson's (1978) theory, the problem of politeness only arises when there is a face threatening speech act (FTA) to be performed. Any act that primarily threatens the addressee's negative-face want, by indicating that the speaker intends impeding the hearer's freedom of action such as directives or requests is a negative FTA. Any future act of the speaker that put some pressure on the hearer to accept or reject and possibly to incur a debt such as offers and promises is a positive FTA.

In the theoretical part of their work, Brown and Levinson introduce the notion of 'face' in order to illustrate 'politeness' in the broad sense. That is to say, all interactants have an interest in maintaining two types of 'face' during interaction: 'positive face' and 'negative face'. Brown and Levinson define 'positive face' as the positive and consistent image people have of themselves, and their desire for approval. On the other hand, 'negative face' is "the basic claim to territories, personal preserves, and rights to non-distraction" (p. 61).

Utilizing this notion of 'face', 'politeness' is regarded as having a dual nature: 'positive politeness' and 'negative politeness'. 'Positive politeness' is expressed by satisfying 'positive face' in two ways: 1) by indicating similarities amongst interactants; or 2) by expressing an appreciation of the interlocutor's self-image. 'Negative politeness' can also be expressed in two ways: 1) by saving the interlocutor's 'face' (either 'negative' or 'positive') by mitigating face threatening acts (hereafter FTAs), such as advice-giving and disapproval; or 2) by satisfying 'negative face' by indicating respect for the addressee's right not to be imposed on. In short, 'politeness' is expressed not only to minimise FTAs, but also to satisfy the interactants' face regardless of whether an FTA occurs or not.

Positive politeness can be achieved through the assurance by the writer that he/she is 'of the same kind' (ibid, p.72) as the reader. As Brown and Levinson (1987, p.72) point out, the speaker (or, in this case, the writer) can avoid or minimize the debt implications of FTAs such as requests and offers, either by referring indirectly to the reciprocity and ongoing relationship between the addressee and himself or by including the addressee and himself equally as participants in or as benefitors from the request or offer. Giving additional offers or promises is considered another positive-politeness strategy to minimize the FTAs. (see op.cit., p.125) In sum, positive politeness is realized through expressions of solidarity, and sometimes additional offers or promises to preserve the addressee's positive face.

Negative politeness is characterized by self-effacement, formality and restraint that the speaker expresses to the addressee:

Face-threatening acts are redressed with apologies for interfering or transgressing, with linguistic and non-linguistic deference, with hedges on the illocutionary force of the act, with impersonalizing mechanisms (such as passives) that distance S and H from the act, and with other softening mechanisms that give the addressee an 'out', a face-saving line of escape, permitting him to feel that his response is not coerced. (ibid, p.70)

To sum up, apologies, hedges, impersonalizing mechanisms (e.g. passive voice, avoidance of the terms 'you' and 'I', softening mechanisms (e.g. the politeness marker 'please'), and expressions of indebtedness are among the main strategies that Brown and Levinson (1987) consider as negative-politeness strategies.

3. Statement of the Problem

Book review is a genre that is by nature a face threatening act has FTA in itself. Writing a book review entails entering into the academic territory of the book reviewer, and as soon as the reviewer sets out to be critical of the content or organization of a book, an overarching issue is how to amalgamate praise with criticism in a balanced way. A number of researchers have conducted macro structure (move) and linguistic analyses on book reviews (Babaii, 2003; Hartley, 2006; Nicolaisen, 2002a & b; Salager-Meyer, Alcaraz Ariza, & Berbesi, 2007); others, have scrutinized book reviews for systematic non-linguistic purposes (Motta-Roth, 1995; Toledo, 2005; Tejerina, 2005; Cacchiani, 2007), negative evaluative expressions by male and female linguists (Romer, 2004), exploring politeness strategies (Jalilifar & Ahmadi, 2011), disciplinary differences (Suarez & Moreno, 2006), or authorship in book reviews (Salmani Nodoushan & Montazeran, 2012).

Despite the good number of studies on book reviews, still we seem not to have sufficient knowledge of the generic organization and evolutionary character of this genre. That is to say, we do not know exactly whether and to what extent the generic organization of book reviews is subject to change across time. Moreover, the studies that have been done on politeness features incorporated in book reviews hardly provide conclusive answers as to the nature and functions of these micro features. One of the gaps encountered in studying book reviews is that nobody seems to have examined book reviews diachronically, and thus and we do not know if the generic structure of the book reviews has changed across time in last decade?

4. Significance of the Study

Like any other genres, according to Swales (1990), book review is continually changing in response to different changes within the discourse community in which it is produced (p. 110). Further, Atkinson (1996, p.334) believes that we will be informed of a powerful perspective on the development of scientific form of life when we study the evolution of textual practices. What we need to do more research is the diachronic study of the way book reviews have been written. These studies can pave the way for the researchers to become more acquainted with the developments of book reviews Investigation into the book reviews which are published at the end of journals is important in many respects. For example, it can illustrate the reviewers' attitude diachronically. Furthermore, because the focus of this study is the use of politeness strategies on the part of the reviewers, this study seeks to see whether the reviewers' use of politeness strategies have experienced any changes diachronically or not. It tries to explore the gradual changes of book review section of Applied linguistic journal over two time periods by considering the use of politeness strategies.

5. Research questions

The following questions motivate the present study:

1. To what extent is the generic organization of book reviews in Applied linguistics journal subject to change during 1980s and 2000s?

2. To what extent is the use of politeness features in book reviews in Applied Linguistics subject to change during 1980s and 2000s?

6. Research hypothesis

Based on the above questions, the following null hypotheses are generated:

1. There are no significant differences between the generic organization of book reviews published in Applied Linguistics journal during 1980s and 2000s?

2. There are no significant differences between the use of politeness features in book reviews published in Applied Linguistics journal during 1980s and 2000s?

7. Methodology

7.1. Corpora

The corpus selected for analysis in this study includes a total of 40 book reviews, which have been selected from Applied Linguistics journal as one of the well-known article in the field of linguistics. This journal is considered to be renowned and prestigious publications in the linguistic community and it has contributed a lot to the general progress of the discipline.

The book reviews of two periods of publication of this journal will be selected for the purpose of this study including those published from 1980 to 1990 and those published from 2000 to 2010.

7.2. Procedures

English data will be gathered from the database of the Oxford Journals. Selection of these texts will be on the basis of their availability to the researcher. They will be downloaded from the site and then 20 books reviews from the volumes published from1980 to 1990 and 20 counterparts from 2000 to 2010 will be selected randomly for data analysis.

After data collection, the researcher starts to identify the generic features of the selected book review texts in terms of moves. Two other researchers working in this area will be selected for saying their comment about the reliability of coding. After an agreement is made on the method of analysis, other texts will be analyzed accordingly.

7.3. Data analysis

The main purpose of this study is to compare the move structure and politeness strategies used in the book reviews of Applied Linguistics journal during the period of 1980-1990 and 2000-2010 . First, the generic structure of the selected book review texts will be compared by applying Swales's (1990) and Bhatia's (1993) model of genre analysis to see if they follow the same pattern during the two selected periods or not. For the second part of the study, the book review texts will be compared during the selected periods in terms of different politeness strategies employed, based on Brown and Levinson's (1987) politeness model. Frequencies of each move or strategy will be calculated and chi-square analysis will be run whether possible differences are statistically significant. Finally, qualitative analysis will provide more information about the move structure of book reviews and the use of politeness strategies by the reviewees.

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